Two TDs have announced that they will not contest the forthcoming General Election.

Fine Gael MEP and TD Gay Mitchell and Independent TD Mildred Fox have confirmed that they will not be running in the election, which is expected next summer.

Mr Mitchell has held a seat for Fine Gael in Dublin South Central since 1981.

When he became an MEP two years ago, he said he would decide closer to the election whether to continue in Europe, or return full time to the Dáil.

This evening, he announced that after much thought, he is to opt for Europe, but he said he was confident Fine Gael would hold his seat, and that Fine Gael and Labour between them could win three of the five seats in the constituency.

His running mate in the last election, Catherine Byrne, has since had a year as Lord Mayor of Dublin, and would be seen as a strong candidate.

Meanwhile in Wicklow, Independent TD Mildred Fox has confirmed she will not run.

Ms Fox, who was elected to the Dáil in 1995 after the death of her father Johnny, told her local radio station she was not standing for 'family reasons'. However there is speculation that her independent organisation will still run a candidate.

She was one of the group of Independent TDs who supported the Government in the last Dáil, and the Taoiseach has said she has been a quality public representative and a sincere and kind-hearted person.

Strategists from all parties will be studying the implications of this evening's announcements, which will make Dublin South Central and Wicklow all the more interesting next summer.

But Fine Gael in particular will miss Gay Mitchell's undoubted appeal at the polls and his decision also follows Councillor Brian Walsh's decision not to run in Galway West.